Brad Reilly, Net#work BBDO’s executive creative director, spoke to media update’s David Jenkin about his team’s successes in the Mobile Campaign, Innovative use of Mobile Media, and Games categories.

The Team Kenya campaign (which took two Golds) was conceived as more than a marketing campaign but as something to inspire national pride. Can you tell us a little more about its aims?

Tusker Lager is Kenya’s oldest brew and as a Kenyan fabric brand there is an imperative to build national pride. It is, however, still a beer, so it’s not good enough to simply do a nation-building job, you have to connect that to the product.

Kenyans have a lot to be proud of, so we looked for a way to be able to highlight these successes or moments of pride, and, importantly, entrench the behaviour of celebrating these moments with a Tusker – and, in so-doing, increase volumes, but with a greater purpose behind it than a traditional promo. That is how the Team Kenya idea was born.

The logistical challenges of such a campaign must have seemed daunting at first. Was the decision to use M-Pesa was something of a eureka moment? Can you tell us a bit about that process?

We knew that we had to get a Tusker into people’s hands and we looked at various ways of doing that, including working with the bars on some kind of redemption process, which really was a complex, logistical nightmare.

We spent days in workshops with various partners hammering out the best solution. The brainwave of M-Pesa suddenly stripped away the complexity, cut out the unpredictability of requiring a ‘middle man’, and, as a behaviour that is second nature to Kenyans, it made a whole lot of sense.

Do you still see agencies in Africa thoughtlessly ‘copying and pasting’ campaigns and strategies that worked in Europe or the US? Would you say a different way of thinking about Africa is taking hold?

I wouldn’t say it’s a shift in agency thinking, it’s more of a shift in client thinking, particularly global clients. Africa is an exploding market and creating real relevance for brands is making tangible financial sense.

As the markets have developed, the demand for ‘made here’ has increased exponentially and the brands that have recognised this early have definitely got a jump on the competition. They have laid firm foundations on which to build hugely viable businesses.  

What do you think was the recipe for success with the Chicken Licken “Kung Fu” work (which took Gold in the Games category)?

At first glance, the Chicken Licken work does not appear particularly local. However, speak to anybody that grew up in SA in the 80s and 90s and they’ll tell you that they were fed on a steady diet of Kung-Fu films, thanks largely to Bop TV and The films were cheap to acquire, so the stations showed them. Every kid imagined themselves as the Bruce Lee or the Jet Li and the Chicken Licken campaign tapped into this deep local resonance. So, in answer to the question, it was rooted in a real local insight.

Looking at your successes, it seems that the innovative application of technology is a particular strength for Net#work BBDO, not just with mobile and digital, but VR too. To what do you attribute that? Would you say it’s an area of particular focus? 

It’s been a very big focus for us, particularly over the last two years, and it is definitely showing up in the work.

We do weekly training and inspiration that focuses on this specific area, our relationships with the likes of Google and Facebook are very close and the entire agency has shifted its way of thinking about ideas and how we deliver them to consumers with the lens of ‘now’ – where and how are people engaging with our clients’ brands today?

In order for them and us to remain relevant it’s about exploring and innovating to keep pace with the world and the lives of our consumers. That said, at the end of the day, the idea is still the most important part. We start there and the channel follows.

How would you describe the mood amongst the Net#work BBDO team since the Bookmarks, and how do you feel about it all?

I think the Bookmarks success was a real feather in our cap. It was a great affirmation that all the effort we’ve put into innovating new types of creative work and ideas is gaining some traction. The team is obviously happy and it always feels good to get a nod from one’s peers, but it also feels like we’re just getting warmed up. We are learning on every campaign and taking that learning into the next one, so hopefully we are getting better each time.

As an agency, we certainly don’t live or die by awards. There are a bunch of factors that contribute to how we feel about a piece: do we personally believe it is innovative, has it been effective, are real people in the world talking about it etc. Awards are one piece of that. So it’s always nice when the whole puzzle comes together like it did on these particular pieces of work.

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Read more about Net#work BBDO’s work with VR in our article Plotting the future of advertising with Mercedes_Benz and Net#work BBDO.